Thursday, September 08, 2005

Terence here, we just returned from the EXPO in Aichi, and checked back into the New Otani.

If there's one picture that sums up our EXPO experience, it's this:
The sign might as well say, "Gaijin, go home".

Now, I know that the EXPO is held in Japan, but for a *World* EXPO, it's certainly not foreigner friendly. Not only were there little to no advertising for this event outside of Japan, foreign visitors pratically have to jump through series of hoops to get into the event. In the case of local Japanese visitors, they can purchase the tickets at most convinent stores, and pre-register for the popular exhibits up to 2 weeks ahead of their scheduled visit, using the 12-digit serial number on the back of the tickets. For foreign visitors, though, the best you can hope for is an online ticket purchase, which only gives you a voucher to exchange for the ticket. No serial number, no pre-registration. Worse, the exchange place is only open 30 minutes before the EXPO, guarenteeing that by the time you'd get the tickets, all the popular venues will already be booked via the same day reservation system.

Here's the Irish pavillion. That is all the English you'll see in the Irish pavillion. The rest of all the exhibits - all in Japanese. What a bitter joke it would be if you were Irish and flew out to visit, only to not understand a single word exhibit put on by your own country and paid for by your countrymen. I think it's simply inexcusible for English speaking countries to not have English displays for their own country's pavillion.

The Russians got it right - all their displays have at the minimum English and Japanese, with a handy computer terminal providing descriptions in Russian, English and Japanese. (For those who are curious: The UK pavilion is bi-lingual, and the American pavilion provides infra-red headsets with English soundtracks for their presentations).

Here's the Mitsui-Toshiba pavillion that we lined up 2 hours for to go inside.
The main attraction is being able to have your face scanned and 3D Mapped onto a CGI movie. We figured that wed' be okay, since English instructions are provided for the facial scanning unit.

A shot of the movie on the render farm monitor can be seen here. That's right. All dialog in Japanese, not a single word of subtitle. I honestly felt STUPID that I spent 2 hours to line up for that - although I read that you're not missing much, as far as plot or quality of script.

About the coolest thing they had on display is a 3D LCD monitor. This is located convinently next to their gift shop. Had I known about that, I would have just walked up and looked at the monitor and walked away, crossing the pavilion off the list...

The last EXPO I went to was the 1990 EXPO in Vancouver. Maybe it's because I was still relatively young back then; I remember coming away fascinated at all the displays. Robots, world's energy problems, industrial automations, space explorations, etc. Performances were visual things, made so that most people can understand them; exhibits were multi-lingual. 15 years had passed - and a lot of the technologies mentioned in the 1990 EXPO are now in mass production. Fuel cells, hybrid vehicles, and personal robots are now a reality. I had expected to see really cool things here - cool, useful things. Boy, was I disappointed.

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